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Chapter 11 - Playing with the Audience in Othello

from Part III - Playhouses

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2022

Simon Smith
Affiliation:
Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham
Emma Whipday
Affiliation:
University of Newcastle
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Summary

Othello has long been a play that has provoked audience interjections. This chapter gives an account of a production staged by The Pantaloons theatre company in 2019 that was put together in order to explore the effects of direct audience address, playfulness and spontaneity. Player/playgoer relationships can be anticipated in the text, but they cannot be pre-programmed: they are determined by the moment-by-moment unfolding of the drama as it is played between actors and audience under specific, never-to-be-repeated conditions. Practice-as-research of this kind allows for a close-up examination of particular instances of actor/audience contact, and emphasises the creative role of the actor (and indeed the audience) in bringing ‘the play’ into its always-transient existence. Making detailed reference to the production’s rehearsal process, its development over the tour, the perspectives of its cast, and the responses of its audiences, this chapter argues that seeking opportunities for direct audience contact in Othello allows for a range of affective and ethical relationships between player and audience, some of which can have a substantial impact on the ways in which the play makes its meanings. It concludes with some thoughts about the possibilities inherent in conceptualising performance as play rather than as ‘acting’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Playing and Playgoing in Early Modern England
Actor, Audience and Performance
, pp. 223 - 241
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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